Posts Tagged ‘Paper Passionista’

Small Business Essentials

January 11, 2012

In the checkout line at Safeway, the woman behind me and I exchanged typical “line chitchat “.  She was warm and personable making for a more pleasant shopping experience.

Outside the store, she told me her name was Evelyn, she made custom jewelry and gave me her card.

Kudos to her for being bold enough to do so!  Many small business people either are not aware of opportunities and potential customers in non-traditional settings or they are too timid to reach out.

Small Business Essential #1 – Be aware and be bold – not pushy, but always tell people what you do and ask if you may give them your card.

Small Business Essential #2 – Make a good impression.   Part of that is your demeanor and appearance – you always need to be “customer ready “.

Evelyn was just that.  Though appropriately casual doing her grocery shopping,  she still made a positive impression.

SBE #3 – Of course you always need to have business cards and those cards speak volumes about you.

You can get innovative cards from Paper Passionista if you are ready to invest a little in your image.   If you are just getting started or are moving out of the hobby stage, VistaPrint has professional looking cards for FREEThere is no reason to try to print them yourself or worse – not have them at all.

SBE #4 – A website or Facebook BUSINESS page.  Your internet provider likely offers free templates anyone can use to create a basic webpage.  Facebook business pages are also free and if you get 25 friends to “like” your page quickly,  you get a simple web address you can use.
Mine is:

You don’t have to do commerce through the site but people need a way to get to know you.

Include pictures of your work, a brief description of your credentials and services you offer as applicable.  Customer comments always help.  Same with any awards you’ve won as well as local or trade press so be sure to include that information too.


Lastly,  give us more than one way to reach you.  An email address and a phone number are critical.   A physical or snail mail address is not.  Not everyone (including me) likes to call – others prefer to call.  Offering both lets you connect with more prospects.

If you work from home, consider a post office box if you feel its vital to have a traditional mailing address but don’t put your home address on cards or websites.

SBE #5 – Be sure your voicemail has a professional recording if you are using that number for business.

Also, if its your cellphone,  don’t answer it at the movies,  a casino,  in the restroom or while the kids are screaming.   Better to let it go to voicemail and return the call from a quiet place than to appear unprofessional.

Opportunities are everywhere and all small businesses need to be ready to capitalize on them.  Are you ready?

Thank You

October 5, 2011

Thank you.  Two such simple words and yet so powerful.  They express appreciation and gratitude.  They give recognition and they inspire loyalty.  At a recent BPW/WA event, an attendee commented she had recently started sending thank you cards and her business was experiencing double-digit increases as a result.

Are you grateful for your customers?  Your suppliers?  Your staff?  This is a great time to let them know.  

Many business people have abandoned holiday cards.  I used to get so many holiday cards from friends, family and business contacts that the challenge was finding a way to display them all.  Over the years, the number has steadily declined.  Some have indicated it was a cost-cutting measure.  Others have said they didn’t want to offend anyone.

This is all great news for YOU!  The card you send to your customers will no longer be buried in a pile of other cards.  The economy and political correctness have given you an opportunity to stand out!

For business, I have always preferred Thanksgiving themed cards.  After all, you are grateful for their business.  The same applies to key vendors or service providers who have consistently helped your business throughout the year.  And of course, don’t forget loyal employees too.

You can personalize the card with your own message, include a photo of your team, have everyone in the office sign them or even enclose a coupon towards their next order.

Using a service such as Paper Passionista where she comes to your office – you can even save time which we all know translates to saving money.

Be sure to not dilute the value of your sentiment by using address labels.  If you don’t have nice handwriting – someone in your office probably does.  If not, feel free to hire a stay-at-home mom, college student or unemployed friend to do the addressing for you.

Don’t let the year end without taking time to acknowledge and express gratitude to all those who contribute to your business success.  If you don’t appreciate them – your competitor will!

Buying Locally

July 6, 2011

It was time to replace our dishwasher.    There was a lot I loved about our dishwasher; the flatware racks, the adjustable top rack, the delayed wash option, the built-in food disposal – well, you get the idea.   So I did what we all do – I searched on the internet for a comparable model.  Once I settled on 2 options with similar features, I typed in my zip code to see what stores near me carried the models being considered.

I was thrilled to see Wiseman Appliance on the list!  I love doing business with local merchants and have had great experiences with Wiseman in the past.  My husband and I stopped by the store with computer print-out in hand.  The owner, Dan, answered our questions eliminating one of the two models.  But the one I wanted was not actually in the store.  He did not try to sell us something on his floor, but immediately checked local warehouse inventory and told us he could have one there within 48 hours for us to see and touch.  After a couple of minutes, my husband just said “Why bother?  It’s not like you are going to see it and decide you don’t want it.  Just set the installation appointment and be done with it.”  Great advice.  That’s what we did.

John Malson arrived at the appointed day and time and did a fabulous job on the installation.  He never once complained about our ridiculously steep driveway, the 16 stairs up to the kitchen, the 54 stairs down to the fuse box to turn off the power, the 54 stairs back up to the kitchen to do the installation then down and back again to turn the power back on when he was finished.

He also didn’t roll his eyes when I showed him the roll of black, rubbery insulation strip I had purchased to camouflage the open space on either side of the installed dishwasher.  In fact, when I wasn’t even looking, he actually installed the stripping for me!   He understood what I was trying to accomplish and did so without ever acting put out or making me feel high-maintenance or even picky!

The stairs, the job well done and the extra effort would have been enough to earn him this blog post but when my housekeeper was here the next day and I was out of town, she discovered a leak under the sink.  With the dishwasher installation only a day old, she assumed something wasn’t connected and called Wiseman.  John came out and found the problem was not with the dishwasher or the installation, but purely by coincidence, the elbow pipe going into the dishwasher had failed and was leaking.

In reality – not his problem.  He could have told us to call our plumber.  Instead, he went to the store (about 1/2 mile away), got a part, came back and put it on.  No charge.  WOW!!!

In telling the story to my friend, Gayle, she relayed a similar situation with King and Bunny’s, a local store near her.  She had bought a washing machine and during the installation, the technician noticed an “abnormal amount of lint” under the old washer and determined the problem was wearing on the dryer vent.  He went to the truck, got a new one and put it on.  No charge.  WOW!  He wasn’t even there to deliver a dryer – just a new washing machine!

I hope when you need something new for your home you will consider the local merchants in your own neighborhood.  In my experience, the pricing is competitive, the staff is knowledgeable and because they are your neighbors, the service simply can’t be beat!  A heartfelt thanks to John and Dan from my appliance store, Wiseman’s!



Solid Gold

January 28, 2011

You can’t escape the ads to buy or sell gold.  In tough economic times, gold becomes even more popular as an investment making it a great time to sell gold you may have and no longer need. 

But really, what do you know about selling gold?  If you are like most of us, nothing!  You may have gone through your drawers and found old gold items you inherited or just no longer wear, but how do you go about selling it? 

That was the situation Gayle O’Donnell recently found herself in.  She had old gold jewelry but was apprehensive about being taken advantage of in the selling process.  The thought of putting her items in an envelope and mailing it off made her uncomfortable.  So she did what most of us do when we are in uncharted waters; she asked for referrals from friends and she read reviews on the internetHer original intent was to get quotes from 2 places to be sure she was getting a fair price for her gold.  However, when she went to her appointment at Sound Gold Buyers in the Ballard area of Seattle, they gained her confidence and trust through the education they gave her that she never went anywhere for a 2nd opinion.

Each step of the way, they explained the testing  used to determine the gold content (14k vs 24k etc.) and the sophisticated scales which are both calibrated by State regulators and locked  for accuracy.  On the website for Sound Gold Buyers  you can watch a short video to see the process for yourself even before you make your appointment.

This education provided to the consumer instills trust and confidence – essential elements in doing business successfully.  These factors are even more important when you deal in goods or services customers do not have a great deal of knowledge about, ones they don’t use often and that involve a large amount of money.   Auto repairs, irrigation and septic systems, many home improvements, even mattress purchases all fall into this category as well.

If your business is one where customers have natural skepticism based on lack of knowledge, build trust by providing basic education on the process, the options and the features/benefits to the consumer.  Also encourage and utilize favorable customer reviews both on your website and on community websites such as   

Trust and confidence are two important elements of earning long-term business and valuable referrals.  Be sure you are doing all you can to earn them by providing education to allow the consumer to make informed decisions.

Exceptional Service to Their Door

January 7, 2011

Wednesday’s post about “pushing the Reset button” generated a flurry of emails.  Many of you liked the idea of challenging the “status quo” and trying new ways to do business in 2011.  One great example of this is Paper Passionista.
Those of you planning to attend the Seattle Wedding Show this weekend to look for wedding invitations will likely be disappointed.  Specialty retailers have been hard hit by the recession.  Even major stationery brands such as Crane have closed their Seattle retail stores offering very few printed invitation options for anyone wanting something nicer than just Costco.

Horror story abound of brides who have ordered over the internet and received tissue-paper quality, misspellings and barely legible printing.

One Woodinville bride went to a mall store that has a few invitation books but no qualified staff to assist.  Her invitations made NO MENTION of the GROOM’S PARENTS!  Not a great way to start out married life with your in-laws!

Paper Passionista to the rescue! In her own “Reset” button move, Gayle O’Donnell closed her retail store, All About Weddings and Celebrations and launched her innovative new model, an “on location” invitation and stationery service. Yes, she brings her years of knowledge and experience TO YOU! She has all the best lines of invitations and stationery for every type of special occasion – all without the overhead of a retail store!

How it works: You make an appointment, have a phone chat with Gayle so she can get a sense of your vision for the event and then she brings the books of the best options to you.  You can meet at your home, office, coordinator’s location or even a neighborhood Starbucks.  Hassle free, personalized service and on YOUR schedule!

This is a great example of changing how business has always been done and making it even more customer responsive.

If you have an “out of the box” idea of how to shake up YOUR business, don’t assume your current vendors won’t embrace it. Gayle was concerned several of her premium, designer lines wouldn’t continue to sell to her with her new business model but in fact, they were thrilled!

Don’t be afraid to forge your own path. 20 years ago when I started Sleep Country USA, no other mattress store looked like mine nor did they offer the customer focused services that became our trademark.  The business landscape is ever changing and the best companies continue to change and evolve as well.

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